Monday, 16 November 2009

Japandroids, Super Adventure Club, Bronto Skylift @ Sneaky Pete's

Japandroids @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 13/11/09 (****)

live review for the skinny

Technical problems hold up tonights This Is Music at a sold-out Sneaky Pete's, meaning opening band Bronto Skylift take the stage an hour behind schedule. A delay can work for a band if the crowd is sufficiently excited, but tonight Bronto struggle to rile people up, despite the drummer doing his best by climbing onto the bar and smacking the lights out. It's not because they don't have energy, but because their painfully abrasive guitarwork and manic drumming is very indulgent: they concede no ground to audience members holding out for for a hook.

Super Adventure Club are indulgent in another way, in the long solos and multi-part multi-tempo songs sense. Sometimes it's hard to hold onto the thread of a song through so many changes, but when you can, it's riveting - Math Rock and 17th Century Ambassadors are particularly awe-inspiring. Near the end, a heavy, hard ten-minute long freeform instrumental piece is full-stopped by a scream and a belch; the next song starts with a smooth croon, harmonising backing vocals, and a melody like a 60s Fairy Liquid advert. Super Adventure Club are never predictable.

Vancouver garage rock duo Japandroids step the energy levels up a gear, and this time the crowd goes with them because they have the tunes to match. There's nothing complicated here: Japandroids play fast and loudly distorted teen anthems about girls and mates, with repetitive shouted vocals, easy to shoutalong to. So we do, mutually assuring each other that a manifesto for life developed as a kid can still apply in young adulthood. Responsibilities? Sorry, we've no space, you're not getting in. We prefer raucous mclusky covers with knob jokes, thanks.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

New Stylus Link

<-------------- wtf?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Frightened Rabbit, Ben TD, Ash, Wonderswan singles

A few single reviews I've done recently and not been arsed to post on here...

Frightened Rabbit - Swim Until You Can't See Land (***)

single review for the skinny

Frightened Rabbit's success is based on nothing resembling modernity: ever since the first lovesick caveman grunted a tune, his descendants have been trying to marry clear storytelling with earnest convictions without tipping into mushy sentimentality. That's an easier balance to hold when girls aren't involved, so Swim's sexless metaphor about trying new things is delivered with a suitable level-headedness. Will Frightened Rabbit swim away from their comfort zone on album number three? Their breakthrough album was a break-up album; "Call this a drowning of the past," he sings here, "she is there on the shoreline throwing stones at my back." Let's hope he's not a specialist.

Ben TD - Leaves (***)
single review for the skinny

Let's give Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Ben TD the benefit of the doubt and say that his confused lyrics in Leaves are actually purposefully garbled. "I saw you in the street picking up leaves, isn't that funny" he starts, before strangely backtracking "cos leaves are cool, but not that cool". That's exactly the kind of mealy-mouthed blabbering that lovestruck men come out with, tongue engaged while brain's away for a walk. Leaves is a very lovestruck song, but unfortunately Ben TD misses a natural opportunity to tie it up into a neat little 3-minute package because he's got a minute more of pleading to do. Trim off that excess earnestness and this is a touching ode to the stupefying power of love.


Ash - True Love 1980 (**)
single review for the skinny

It's a long time since anyone really cared about Ash, so in a valiant attempt to halt their decline, the Northern Irish rockers have promised to release 26 singles (one every fortnight for a year) instead of a new album. It's an interesting idea aimed at maintaining the interest and attention of fans over a longer period of time, but it could fall flat if all the songs are as poor as this one, the first of the proposed 26. True Love 1980 is a New Order parody, right down to the trite lyrics and flat singing, which aren't elements of New Order's sound that anyone should attempt to replicate. With tinny synths and schmaltzy verses, True Love 1980 is more foolish than brave.

Wonderswan - Furrrpile (**)
single review for the skinny

Leeds quartet Wonderswan say on their MySpace that they formed out of "a shared love for scuzzy 90s lo-fi slacker bands." No shit! The reason everyone's gone crazy about the upcoming Pavement reunion is because it's been demonstrated for a decade now that nobody can do Pavement quite like Pavement. Furrrpile is a crushingly dull imitation, featuring overdriven out-of-tune guitars recorded in low fidelity along with a flat and witless vocal: "Throw me on the furrrpile and I'll climb inside, down in the furrrpile we've got our own styles," and so on. Slacker cool can't be manufactured.


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Dirty Dozen - Singles Column, November 09

Compiling the Dirty Dozen is a dirty job because sometimes it involves bashing honest, hard-working bands who never upset anyone (because no-one ever listens to them). Then again, sometimes it involves bashing massively successful bands who make millions of girls greet, so that's virtually a public service. Snow Patrol's Just Say Yes (*) is as blubbery, wet and limp as a dead seal, and Gary Lightbody's pleading to the unfortunate subject of his affections is delivered with all the gusto of someone telling a child their dog died. Mind the Grange Hill cast's advice. Glasgow's Kick To Kill do a pretty good Cure impression for the first 80 seconds of Cut Me (**), but it's downhill from there due to the roughly four thousand repetitions of the shouted vocal hook. Dead Confederate's The Rat (**) is dark and gloomy, only coming to life when someone gets accused of having "stupid human for brains".

Eh? Local rockers Satellite Underground are already imagining a successful future, where they'll regularly be gigging in front of a Sea Of People (**). But you cannae pair "at least we're together" with "this time it's forever" without causing a wave of groans. Water And A Flame (**) is an over-polished melodramatic ballad, duetted between Daniel Merriweather and Adele. Ewwww! Meanwhile, 39-year old Rivers Cuomo is still writing songs about high school romances. Wheatus – sorry, I mean Weezer's (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To (***) is ridiculous, but also kinda cute.

The Horrors' Whole New Way (***) is a strange choice for a single, a bonus track on the Japanese edition of their excellent recent Krautrock-inspired LP Primary Colours, it's no standout in that context. Passion Pit's full-length is a little tough to get through, because their rainbow-brite exuberance quickly gets annoying. But on its own, you'd need a heart of stone to deny Little Secrets' (****) earnest effervescence. If songs were judged by verses, few would appreciate The Cheek's Hung Up (****). But its brilliant stomping horn-led chorus more than makes up for the flatness elsewhere. John Peel woulda loved it.

Of all the Kate-Bush inspired femmes breaking this year, Mowgli's Road (****) marks Marina and The Diamonds out as the weirdest. Marina is so kooky, she cuckoos. Either a genius or a quack, we'll lean towards the former. Alex Turner is in typically graceful storytelling form on the Arctic Monkeys' Cornerstone (****). It's a perfectly measured slow pine for a lost love, but it just misses out on Single of the Month because Turner tries the most dubious rhyme of "ghost" with "toast" since Des'ree. Thin margins. Instead, the honours go to The Dead Weather's unique and baffling I Cut Like A Buffalo. Set to a reggae syncopation, singer Jack White riffs on a confusion between "choke" and "joke". "Is that you chokin'?" he hectors, "Or are you just jokin'?" It's not very funny, but when he makes a rhythmic choking sound over the breaks it sounds equally like a large animal suffocating, or a DJ scratching. Is that what "cut like a buffalo" means? No idea, but it's wonderfully eccentric.